Highland Park Municipal Band hits all the right notes

People who attend Highland Park Municipal Band performances effusively sing the band’s praises. But the band members, known for their notes among their friends and families, would like to be more broadly known and noted by the general public. The special band concert on Sunday, March 15, 2015, 2 p.m. at the Highland Park Senior Center (South Sixth), should go a long way towards boosting the band’s presence in the community, because it is a benefit concert for the Highland Park Police Benevolent Association.

“One of the best-kept secrets in town just may be the Highland Park Municipal Band, a 42-member group with musicians from Highland Park and surrounding communities,” said band member and clarinet player Jeff Wertz.  Formed in 2013 by Mike Kuklakis, a trumpeter and long time Highland Park resident, the band plays a variety of classical, jazz and show tunes. Admission to the band concerts is free, but donations for the upcoming benefit concert are encouraged as a way of supporting an important local charity. Food and refreshments will be served immediately after the show.

The concert will feature a medley of Irish tunes for the upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day Holiday, a suite of Disney Show tunes, Prokofiev’s March Opus 99, and more.

“We always play a mix of crowd pleasers and serious classical works, and this Prokofiev falls into the latter category.  It’s one of the most interesting and challenging pieces we have attempted, and we are really looking forward to performing it for this great cause on Sunday. We hope everyone from town comes out to see this program.” Mr. Wertz said.

Both Mr. Wertz and Mr. Kulikas agreed that the band is very lucky to have recruited as its conductor Shu Ohkubo a professional musician who has conducted professional orchestras in the past.  Conducting this band is a labor of love for Mr. Ohkubo. That fact is apparent to anybody watching the conductor’s body language during a performance.

“I really like conducting, and when I conduct a performance I let that enthusiasm just pour out.  I have a great time and the audience seems to enjoy the show more too,” Mr. Ohkubo said.

The enthusiasm, said Mr. Wertz, is contagious among the performers, who are as diverse (in age, profession, ethnic backgrounds) as the instruments being played.

“We all have such a great time when we get together – and really look forward to our rehearsals and performances…. In my case, I was an All State level player in high school, but stopped playing in 1978.  I missed playing, but never thought there would be a vehicle right here in Highland Park to resume being part of band performances. Then, one day two years ago, I was waiting in the municipal building to talk to somebody about a building permit, and I saw tacked to the wall an unimposing flyer about a municipal band.  The rest all came together really well….I am really happy to be rediscovering the fun I had with playing in a band 35 years ago.” Mr. Wertz, a media professional, said.

Even though the size of the Highland Park Municipal Band has doubled in the past year, current band members are looking to share the joy with more new recruits. They emphasized that joining the band is a non-stressful, non-competitive, non-audition process. All that is required is to be able to play an instrument and read music.

  For more information, please contact: Jeff Wertz jeffwertz@gmail.com  212 289 2333

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